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Cara Ruppert
The Superlab Park

The Central Chemical site reveals its history at a microscopic level; a layer that one can understand only through scientific analysis. This microscopic analysis exposes a history of abuse and neglect on the earth. While the earth has been changing and evolving for billions of years, a very brief (geologically microscopic) 15-year period of pesticide manufacturing has made the strongest abusive impact. It is both this analysis at the microscopic level and the history of industrial abuse that come to play in my scheme.

The Program Goals:
1. To create a space that scientifically celebrates its abused past through an experimental outdoor laboratory. I want this to be an outdoor science laboratory with the driving force of an eco-educational center. I envision this space working similar to many nature centers around the States, where the main goal is public outreach. However, at Central Chemical, I also want a hard science aspect for testing water and soil from the site for levels of contamination and effectiveness of remediation technologies. The Ecolab will be administered by scientists, but will have a public educational aspect to disclose information on the site, to run programs for students in the Hagerstown schools, and to offer after-school and summer camp experiences.
2. To seamlessly combine the uses and users of the laboratory with a park at the Central Chemical site. This aspect of the project will make the site available to everyone, and thereby function as a typical city park with trails, gathering spaces, meadows, etc. While there is a main area designated for the visitor, the public will also have some restricted access to the Ecolab via circulation through and adjacent to its core.

The Design:
I am conceiving of this space in a series of “eco-zones.” These zones will have different ecological functions through the site in order to promote a variety of habitats and remediation techniques. The Ecolab will benefit from this organization by being able to test the biodiversity that occupies the different zones overtime, another sign of remediation success or failure. The main ecozones, the grassland, upland forest, and wetland, are large moves across the park. The smaller moves present themselves in the area that hugs the rock outcropping; the area I am designating as the “people zone.” This zone will include, among other spaces, an outdoor classroom, two pedestrian entrances, and a picnic area.

The organization of the site is also dependent on the industrial history of Central Chemical-its alignment with the railroad, and its relationship to the rock outcropping, the sinkhole and the lagoon. The current and past circulation paths will continue to remain on the site as the major circulation through the park. Minor circulation paths will also be incorporated into the area. Circulation between the site and the city, and especially the schools, is also a large factor at Central Chemical in order to reinforce the link between the center and the schools.

The Larger Scale:
Water at the site is cleaned and released back into the hydrological system of Hagerstown. The water runs from Central Chemical down through the city and finally into Antietam Creek, the Potomac River, the Chesapeake Bay, and the ocean, during which it picks up more pollutants. The cleanup of the soil and water on site will make a large impact to the water quality downstream. However, much more could be done throughout the city of Hagerstown to clean and filter the water prior to reaching the Antietam. Since no storm water is cleaned or treated in the city, it is necessary to imagine a storm water management plan as the best possible way to further the remediation at Central Chemical. While this is not the main aspect of my project, I am trying to advocate its necessity in the city through a diagrammatic and mapping strategy.

Past  ~  Present  ~  Future